Larson Report 
NEWSLETTER

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A Capitol Update from State Senator Chris Larson 

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

I hope all is well and that you are keeping warm! This week, I have been hosting Community Listening Sessions around the district. I'd like to thank those of you that were able to make it to share your ideas, concerns, and hopes for Wisconsin. 

Based on the conversations from the listening sessions and while out in the community, a few top priorities stand out. I will be working on some of them during the remainder of the legislative session. 

A quality school for each Wisconsin child, a safe community for our families, and clean water and air for our kids are among the major areas of concern for our neighbors. Read on for more on our efforts on those. 

At the legislative town hall in St Francis, the issue of the toxic pollution violations of the Mid-America Steel Drum Company was brought up. We have an update on this critical issue today, too.

Next Thursday is already Thanksgiving. I am thankful for my family, my friends, and for the privilege to represent our awesome community. As the shopping season kicks into gear, too, please join me in buying locally to keep our state strong. 

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! 

In Service, 

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 A Legislative Vision
for our Future
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I appreciate the input I have received from neighbors throughout the legislative session. It's clear that our neighbors are looking to improve our state to ensure everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential. Based on the feedback I have received, I'll be focusing on three issue areas for the remainder of the session. I have introduced, or am working on introducing, legislation that will do the following:

Promote Safe and Healthy Communities
Each and every one of us has a right to live in a safe and secure community. The most basic role of our state government is to keep you and your family safe from crime and other harm. We have both a moral and economic obligation to address issues like lead pipes, opioid and heroin addiction, and firearm violence prevention.  

Protect our Shared Water and Land
Our state has a rich history of being a leader in conservation to ensure a healthy environment for our citizens. Our economy and future depend on having a clean environment, diverse wildlife, and clean lakes and streams. From hunting and fishing to tourism and recreation, local communities and businesses depend on our state's unique natural areas to attract visitors and infuse economic growth. In order to ensure future prosperity and opportunity in every corner of the state, we must have safeguards in place and work together to find long-term solutions that will ensure the future health and prosperity of our people and planet.

Provide a Quality Education for all Wisconsin Kids
Every child deserves a quality education and strong neighborhood schools are a benefit to everyone. For every $1 spent on public education the potential rate of return to the taxpayer is $8. Simply put, high-quality programming at K-12 schools, especially in early childhood education, acts as insulation to persistent societal issues, including poverty, crime, and joblessness. Even those who don't have children or whose children are grown enjoy the benefits of higher property values and community prosperity that come with having quality local public schools.

In this week's newsletter, I wanted to update you on my efforts to ensure all children in our state have access to a quality, well-rounded education. Keep reading for these details, and look for future newsletters with updates on community safety legislation and efforts to safeguard our shared lands and waters.  

Our Kids, Our Future: Providing Quality Education

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Character Education Bill  SB 329 (passed Senate Education Committee)
I am committed to finding ways to work across party lines to make sure our kids and grandkids have the opportunity to live in great communities for years to come. I am working with Republican Senator Alberta Darling to move a bill forward that provides funding to the Department of Public Instruction for awarding grants to allow teachers and school leaders to participate in professional development training in character education.

Character education is a learning process that enables students and adults in a school community to understand, care about, and act on core ethical values such as respect, justice, civic virtue and citizenship, and responsibility for self and others.

Schools like Brown Deer Middle/High School and school districts like South Milwaukee have been named Wisconsin Schools of Character and have been recognized for their exemplary character education programs. In fact, South Milwaukee is even recognized as a National School of Character. 


Real Voucher School Accountability  (introduced as state budget amendment, which was rejected by GOP majority. Standalone legislation to be introduced soon)
Schools that receive public money owe it to Wisconsin taxpayers to provide a quality education. Private voucher schools receiving public resources must be held to the same accountability standards as our traditional neighborhood schools. The Real Voucher School Accountability Act would:

  • Keep our kids safe by ensuring the same level of teacher transparency and accountability that we require from public schools.

  • Help all kids to achieve their best by providing access to crucial resources for kids in voucher schools, such as assessing reading readiness to students in 4-year-old kindergarten through 2nd grade and creating similar graduation requirements for voucher students as public school students.

  • Protect our tax dollars, as was originally intended when vouchers started, by allowing communities to decide for themselves if they want to allow private voucher schools in their neighborhood through a referendum as well as cap voucher school enrollment.

Investing in the Community School Model  SB 282 (awaiting public hearing)
The community schools model takes a wraparound approach, which allows for more comprehensive, individualized services for students, such as academic support and enrichment activities. This could include expanded learning time and summer or after school enrichment and learning experiences; programs that promote parental involvement and family literacy; job training, internship opportunities, and career counseling services; and health services, including primary health, services by a school nurse, dental care, mental health counseling, and nutrition services.

Senate Bill 282 creates a community school start-up grant program, which would allocate funds to public schools that focus on improving student learning, strengthening families, and working with community partners to provide additional services to families in the district. Republicans have failed to invest in the services desperately needed in our schools and have neglected programming that is proven to be beneficial in supporting families and bolstering student achievement.


Through the holistic approach of community schools, our schools will have the tools to address the complex range of factors that contribute to student learning.

Special Education Restoration Act  SB 211 (awaiting public hearing)
I introduced Senate Bill 211 to increase state aid to school districts for special education programs. State aid that supports the education of students with disabilities has remained frozen since the 2008-2009 school year, but the cost to provide this education has continued to rise.

This results in a continuing slide in reimbursement rates for special education costs that school districts incur and forces our already underfunded schools to spread their resources dangerously thin to try and accommodate all of the students in the district. For instance, they may have to have one nurse be responsible for several schools. This is problematic because some students require medications be administered multiple times a day. The Special Education Restoration Act would give schools their fair share of funding by bringing us back to reimbursing districts at a very modest 33%.

Fixing the ‘Values Deficit’ in Education   (introduced as a state budget amendment, rejected by GOP majority)
Investing in our children is one of the most important jobs we have as a state. I strongly believe one of the core pillars of what has made Wisconsin a great state is our traditional dedication to a strong education system, where every child has access to a quality education. Wisconsin must renew this value of supporting our local public schools, as it is crucial to strengthening our communities and state. Under a budget amendment offered by Senate Democrats, every single one of our Wisconsin school districts would have seen a stronger investment, allowing them to ensure our kids reach their full potential and have a shot at the American Dream. While the GOP majority rejected the amendment, I will continue to fight to put an end to the shortchanging of our kids and their future.  

Stay Tuned for More! 
Stay tuned for future Larson Report newsletters that will go into more detail on other parts of the legislative priorities mentioned in the beginning of this newsletter. Together, we can make sure we have good schools for every child, safe communities, and clean water and air for our kids and grandkids.  

Mid-America Steel Drum Update

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Recently, a group of residents near the Mid-America facility in St. Francis petitioned the court for class action status, thus beginning legal action to address the pollution that is affecting the health and quality of life of neighbors. 

For anyone concerned that they have been impacted by any of the facilities now owned and operated by the Grief Corporation, I encourage you to complete a data sheet that can be found here. Also, please check out the neighbor-sponsored Facebook page titled “Saint Francis Citizens: Mid America Status.” This is a closed group for area residents, those wishing to be involved will need to ask to be allowed to join.

After letters from U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin asking for federal agencies to investigate the toxic air and water pollution from the Wisconsin facilities, the investigation of industrial barrel refurbishing facilities spread nationwide to include 13 facilities in nine states. The United States Department of Transportation found 16 violations at our local facilities. The Environmental Protection Agency and OSHA investigations appear to be ongoing.

At the state level, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) found 19 serious violations at the facilities this past summer, which included the storage, transportation, and treatment of hazardous waste without a license. While technically the DNR investigation may not be officially closed, the DNR has held an enforcement conference with the company work on remedying these violations. Under Governor Walker, the DNR has been audited and found to be lacking in enforcement of polluters. My colleagues on the Joint Legislative Audit Committee are aware of this situation and will be pushing the DNR for stronger enforcement and accountability.

Issues like this take a frustratingly long time to investigate and resolve. I will continue to work to safeguard the health of our neighbors.

Take Action

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I am counting on you to help me let our neighbors know what is going on in the State Legislature and in our community. Help me get the word out about some of the priority issues discussed in this edition of the Larson Report as well as the ones that will be included in future reports. 

Not sure where to begin? I will be including 'Conversation Starter' ideas for each topic area, beginning this week with education.

Quality Schools Conversation Starter:
"Each Wisconsin child deserves a quality education. We all benefit from having great schools as they help secure a prosperous future for our kids and communities and help us individually through higher property values. Investing in traditional neighborhood schools is a win-win for Wisconsin. Call your state senators and state representatives and tell them to support our local schools and protect our tax dollars from being spent on less-accountable schools." Note: you can add your own personal story and mention any of the bills listed above when talking with family and friends about this topic. 

In Case You Missed It

Each week, the Larson Report strives to provide up-to-date, in-depth information to you. Between editions, a lot happens in Madison and our Wisconsin communities. I want to make sure you know the most pressing issues facing our neighborhoods across the state. Below are some of the top stories from the past couple of weeks.

  • 2018 Health Insurance Open Enrollment! 
    Are you, or someone you know, uninsured or looking for a more affordable health insurance plan? Open enrollment for 2018 Marketplace plans is going on now. 

    By going to healthcare.gov you can compare health insurance plans and find out if you will get financial help to pay for the cost of your insurance or health care. You can also find local resources to get in-person assistance to enroll in a plan.

    Open enrollment ends on December 15, so don’t wait to sign up for a 2018 health insurance plan. Get covered, by visiting healthcare.gov today!

  • GOP Rams Through Convention of States Bill
    Recently, the Senate GOP pushed through legislation calling for a Convention of States at the behest of billionaire special interests. With the passage of Assembly Joint Resolutions 20 and 21, the Wisconsin GOP is gleefully doing the bidding of ALEC, the Koch brothers, and their billionaire buddies bent on breaking our country. The legislation taken up today is almost identical to the pre-packaged bills on ALEC’s website that is being pushed through legislatures across the nation.

    By pushing for a Constitutional Amendment that eliminates federal budget flexibility, Republicans are putting unnecessary and unwarranted restrictions on our ability to spend money, which will jeopardize how we can respond to times of emergency and our ability invest in our future.

    Senate Republicans presented a false choice. They control all levels of our national government and could eliminate budget flexibility and go to ‘pay-as-you-go.’ Federal borrowing in times of need is crucial to our national strength. The majority of our neighbors are not rich; they must borrow money to access to the American Dream – to purchase a home, pay for tuition, or buy a car. In order to ensure the safety and prosperity of all American families, our federal government needs the same flexibility. See an article about this issue, here. 

  • Bridge to be Named After Richard Grobschmidt 
    Senate Bill 99 -- legislation to officially name the bridge along the Hank Aaron State Trail after an incredible public servant and lifelong South Milwaukee resident, Richard Grobschmidt -- unanimously passed through the Assembly this week. The bill was passed by the Senate over the summer.

    Throughout his long and memorable career, Senator Grobschmidt earned a reputation in our community and across the state as a passionate advocate for educational opportunities for young Wisconsinites. He worked as a teacher, championed a school-to-work apprenticeship program in his role as a state legislator, and served as the Assistant State Superintendent of Schools. In addition, Senator Grobschmidt was a driving force behind the creation of the Lakeshore State Park, where the bridge that will bear his name is located.

    Our community and Wisconsin as a whole will enjoy the benefits of Senator Grobschmidt’s achievements for years to come. It was an honor to work with my colleagues, Senator Alberta Darling and State Representative Jessie Rodriguez, to ensure that proper recognition was given to a dedicated public servant who with the support of an amazing family, devoted his career to serving his neighbors and his community. A humble man with a tireless work ethic and devotion to public service, his legacy is a shining example of how one person can make a huge difference. Read a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article about this issue, here.

  • A Call for Indigenous Peoples Day 
    The Indian Community School in Milwaukee, along with Tribal leaders and students throughout the state, came to the Capitol on Tuesday, November 14 to advocate for the passage of a bill to declare Indigenous Peoples Day in Wisconsin.

    Several municipal governments officially recognize Indigenous Peoples Day, including Milwaukee County, which passed a resolution last year at the encouragement of students at Indian Community School. 

    Passing this bill would make Wisconsin the first state to end the observance of Columbus Day and instead observe Indigenous Peoples Day. See video from the press conference, here.

Events in the Community
Supporting our neighbors and being involved in our community is of the utmost importance. Some community events that might be of interest to you and your family are listed below.


South Milwaukee's Old Fashioned Christmas
Date: Sunday, November 26
Location: South Milwaukee
Description: The South Milwaukee Lions Club invites you to the Annual Old Fashioned Christmas Parade. The parade starts at 1 p.m. Food and donations will be collected for South Milwaukee Human Concerns during the parade and at the South Milwaukee City Hall. For more information, including the parade route and an opportunity to visit with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, CLICK HERE.

I'm excited to be joining the line-up for this year's Christmas Parade and would love to have you join me! If you would like to be involved in the parade, call 414-368-0135  for more details.

 

19th Annual Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival Kick-Off Extravaganza 
Kickoff: Thursday, November 16 at 6:30 p.m. 
Holiday Lights Festival runs through Monday, January 1, 2018

Watch local acts before the downtown’s light and firework show illuminates the night. Following the kickoff, free Jingle Buses will take guests around downtown to see all of the newly lit scenes. Can’t make it to the kickoff? Don’t worry, the festivals run through January 1, 2018!

Pere Marquette Park

900 N Plankinton Ave. 
Milwaukee, WI 53203

Hunger Task Force Thanksgiving Meal Bin
Friday, November 17 from 8 a.m. to Noon
The Hunger Task Force is looking for volunteers for their annual Thanksgiving Meal Bin food sort! They will be packing around 800 meal bins with Thanksgiving food that is donated from Outpost and other organizations. It’s a rewarding experience that will make the holidays especially meaningful this year. They need a minimum of 30 people so make sure to sign up today!

Holiday Folk Fair
Friday, November 17 from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, November 18 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday, November 19 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. 
Celebrate the cultural heritage and explore the food, music, dance, and arts of different cultures of people living in Southeastern Wisconsin. This year’s theme, “Celebrating the Culture of Welcome,” guests can learn how food, art, music, and dance contribute to welcoming new neighbors and visitors. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door, children aged 6-12 and seniors over 62 are $10.

State Fair Park Exposition Center

8200 West Greenfield Avenue
West Allis, Wisconsin 53214


Milwaukee Holiday Parade

Saturday, November 18 at 9:30 a.m.
Enjoy watching marching bands, floats, giant helium balloons, local celebrities, costumed characters, live animals, specialty vehicles, and Santa Claus at this Milwaukee holiday tradition! The parade weaves through the heart of downtown Milwaukee. Following the parade, Santa will be available for pictures from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Boston Store on Wisconsin Ave. 

 

Deck the Streets Kickoff Event
November 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Milwaukee Public Museum is transforming the Streets of Old Milwaukee into a holiday wonderland! Be among the first to stroll the bedecked Streets and enjoy a day full of holiday programs, musical performances and family activities at our kickoff event on Saturday, November 18. The event is free with general Museum admission. 

 

2017 Special Holidays Free Days at the Zoo
The Zoo is open 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
If you are a Milwaukee County resident, you can enjoy the Milwaukee County Zoo for free on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. An ID is required and parking fees remain in effect. 


Bay View Tree Lighting
Monday, December 4, 2017
Holiday music by the St. Thomas More High School Choir begins at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 4, followed by a singalong for children and families, and the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Claus at 7 p.m. to light the tree. Gather in the west parking lot of Church of the Immaculate Conception, S. Kinnickinnic Ave. and E. Herman St. (414) 481-2842. 

Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
Wednesday, December 6, 2017, at 5:30 p.m.
Oak Creek’s annual Christmas tree lighting takes place at Drexel Town Square. The evening also includes photos with Santa, gift bags, and milk & cookies. Please bring a non-perishable food item to help those in need during the holidays.


South Milwaukee Holiday Events 
There are tons of family-friendly and fun things to do in South Milwaukee during the Holiday Season. See the event flyer below. To see an enlarged flyer, click on the photo or the hyperlink above.

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